A small asteroid the size of a bus will fly safely by Earth today

Asteroid 2020 JA will pass at a range halfway to the moon.

A newly discovered asteroid about the size of a bus will zip safely by Earth today (May 3), passing at a distance just over halfway to the moon. 

The asteroid 2020 JA will fly by Earth at a range of about 148,000 miles (238,000 kilometers) when it passes today. That’s about 0.62 times the distance between the Earth and the moon. (The moon is about 239,000 miles, or 385,000 km, on average.)

Asteroid 2020 JA is between 31 and 72 feet wide (9.6 to 22 meters), according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies. NASA’s Asteroid Watch widget listed the asteroid’s diameter as about 40 feet (12 m) and compared its size to a city bus.

This NASA graphic shows the path of asteroid 2020 JA, a newfound bus-sized space rock that will fly safely by Earth at a distance of 148,000 miles on May 3, 2020.
This NASA graphic shows the path of asteroid 2020 JA, a newfound bus-sized space rock that will fly safely by Earth at a distance of 148,000 miles on May 3, 2020. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project in Ceccano, Italy captured an image of 2020 JA with a telescope. In the image, the asteroid appears as a tiny point of light in a star field.

Small asteroids like 2020 JA zip by Earth several times a month, and typically pose no risk to our planet, NASA officials have said. For example, a tiny asteroid called 2020 HS7 passed Earth at a distance of 23,000 miles (36,400 km) on April 28 but posed no risk of impact.

Astrophysicist Gianluca Masi captured this image of the newfound asteroid 2020 JA from Ceccano, Italy on May 2, 2020. The asteroid fly within 148,000 miles of Earth on May 3.
Astrophysicist Gianluca Masi captured this image of the newfound asteroid 2020 JA from Ceccano, Italy on May 2, 2020. The asteroid fly within 148,000 miles of Earth on May 3. (Image credit: Virtual Telescope Project/Gianluca Masi)

Scientists with NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office regularly track near-Earth objects like comets and asteroids to search for potential impact threats to our planet. To date, astronomers have found 22,776 near-Earth objects, more than 95% of them discovered through NASA-funded surveys, the agency has said. 

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New asteroids like 2020 H7 and  2020 JA are being discovered all the time at a rate of 30 each day, NASA has said.